Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

It's the last day of 2011, in case you haven't been keeping track. I won't be sorry to see this year recede in my rear view mirror. Not that I haven't had some great times in 2011, but there have been some things that have marred the past 365 days, enough to make me question what it is I really want to do with the dogs, showing, breeding and the like. The new year will see the end of some things and although endings can be sad, they must occur to allow new beginnings.

This year started out with some pretty exciting plans, mainly the anticipated trip in February to Westminster Kennel Club in New York City. My expectations were simply for Zero to make the first cut and as we all know he managed much more than that. His Best of Breed win at this esteemed show was more thrilling for all that it was totally unexpected.

This experience remains the highlight of 2011 for me since it is among the pinnacles of wins any owner or breeder can achieve in dog showing. It was the highest entry for 2011 and highest breed entry in WKC history and a win I will cherish for my lifetime. No small thanks to Erin for making it possible for Zero to show in New York.

After such a lofty start to the year the following 8 months had a lot to live up to. I have to give them credit for trying! In April Zero made the front page again by winning his Canadian Championship in one Ridgeback Specialty weekend in BC which gave his mother Halo her 8th Champion of Record. Leeloo also obliged by coming into heat and we made Raimi's lifetime by allowing him to have his way with the love of his life. 

Then it was time to just sit back and wait to see whether Leeloo would cook up some puppies. In just a few short weeks it was apparent that she had and how. I felt a little sorry for Leeloo when she was at this stage because it was apparent she didn't understand why she was so uncomfortable, why she couldn't curl into a ball, and what was kicking at her insides.

In short order she was relieved of the burden of being fat and saddled with the burden of 10 healthy puppies. Fortunately she seemed to grasp this task far better than being pregnant and breezed through the care of her litter with hardly raising an eyebrow. Her favorite part was being fed almost 8 cups a day for a couple weeks!

As happens with anything baby they grew up so fast and in the blink of an eye they were almost ready to go home. Before moving to Nova Scotia I was a little concerned about who I would sell puppies to, not knowing the lay of the inquiry-land in these parts, but great homes came up in spades, so much so that I had to disappoint people as there were just not enough puppies.  Now that this litter is 6 1/2 months old I am delighted and impressed with the wonderful homes taking care of Leeloo's babies - some are even crazy enough to want another!

Two puppies had to stay for separate reasons and although I was happy to keep them on for their owners, I was more than happy to send them on their way! Zayi was a busy little monster who never tired of getting into trouble and Gotham was a sweet doll who tried very hard not to be naughty.

After a traumatic drive to the airport both puppies were safely on their way and life could return to normal ... as normal as it could be with Cora staying on to annoy her parents every waking second. A more beautiful and sweet Ridgeback baby I have never known and I am grateful every day for her arrival as puppy #10 ... Leeloo sure made me sweat up until then!

I also changed jobs this year and am now working at a great little shop in town where the people are like family, the customers are familiar, although occasionally curmudgeonly, and work is every day a pleasure. My un-ending thanks to my new boss who looked past the fact that I was from 'away' and hired me anyway!

Shortly into the Autumn the American Ridgeback National occurred and Zero once again proved his mettle among hundreds of Ridgebacks from across the continent. He was chosen for an Award of Merit which is a bit like a runner up in a pageant. Zero ends 2011 as the #2 Breed and All Breed Rhodesian Ridgeback and is second only to his half sister (same sire) Fiona. They also share a common ancestor on their dam's side both having the same grandsire Morgan. The top two Ridgebacks in the USA certainly kept it in the family!

The exclamation point on the year was the third breeding in a row of a 3 year old bitch from my second litter and the "Screw you" of it all pretty much sums up 2011. Not a tragedy but certainly not what I had hoped for little Light Wheaton Girl when I sold her. I can only hope that she comes through safely and is finally spayed before the end of 2012 - that is my wish as her breeder. 

Today the year comes to a close and I look back at this entry and see that besides the above paragraph - which I could have done nothing about anyway - the year appears to have been a resounding success. As I wrote I made some selective omissions and maybe one day, when I'm far removed from the circumstances, I can put into words why 2011 won't necessarily be looked upon with resounding favour. For now though there is hope and expectation for 2012, big plans are in the works and I am excited to turn the calendar over to the blank days that stretch ahead. I hope that along the way you might stop in to see how we are faring and to share in some of our adventures. Best wishes to all in the New Year and I hope it holds as much promise for you as I hope it does for me and my 'crew'.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Babes in Toyland

When I went to my parent's house for Christmas I knew there would be Puli puppies there to squee over - they were 4 weeks old which made them the absolute most adorable age for puppies of any breed. This is because they are old enough to be past the boring 'sausage with legs' stage but too young to be destructive and annoying.

The difference with these Puli puppies is that they are not all black, two of them were born a sort of brushed bronze color which is the color their mother was when she was born although she has never produced this color in previous litters. I am most interested in this because these puppies are half-siblings to Esme who will one day produce little Puli babies of her own and maybe, if I wish hard enough, something this color.

It's interesting to see puppies of another breed after having your own litters because of the size difference. Puli puppies at 4 weeks are about the same size as Ridgeback puppies at about 2 weeks although Pulis do not possess the same dense bone and weight that Ridgebacks do so they are a lot lighter and more like wind up toys.

I think their color is just to die for - it makes them so much more interesting than just black. I often wonder what it would be like to have a breed that produces color patterns since Ridgebacks, although different shades of wheaton, are all still basic brown when they are born. Pulis are usually black so to have these little bronzed babies is fascinating. The wise little owl pattern on this puppy is just too adorable for words.

This little group was a cheerful lot who wagged their tails, played happily with each other and gave little puppy kisses with no hesitation. They can't see very well so everything is interesting ... even fingers.

The two 'black' puppies weren't even really all black because they had brown hair under their tails and on the front of their legs although they will likely be black as adults. Even the bronze puppies will likely just get darker and darker until they are a  faded black as is their mother.

That little brown bottom is far too cute to be legal. She was busy digging up the towel from the corner so she could wrestle with it. They were a busy bunch!

That nose certainly invites kisses and I was happy to oblige!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Coast to Coast

When a person says 'I went tobogganing with my Daddy on Christmas Day' I can imagine it would bring to mind images of a little girl dressed like the Michelin Man and her Daddy carrying her up the hill while pulling the toboggan behind him. Not so this Christmas Day. I had to walk up the hill myself and pull my own sled; however, the Michelin part is about right. Although there are 30 years to separate the ages of my Dad and myself I think it would be hard to guess who had a better time. My mom obliged by taking photos of the day and managed to capture some great shots of not only me, my Dad and the dogs, she also got the view of the water in the background.

The dogs thought it was a strange ritual we were performing and didn't immediately catch on that they needed to get out of the way or they'd get the legs taken out from under them. Esme was almost used as a speed bump on the first run so after that she made a point of sticking pretty far off to the side when we were heading down - she's the little black speck by the treeline.

In Pictou County tobogganing is called 'coasting' and apparently in Newfoundland it's called 'sliding', I have also heard it called sledding. Whatever you call it the process is the same; bolting downhill on flakes of frozen water while sitting on something smooth and flat. Crashing is also part of the 'fun'.

As happened the last time we did this Leeloo thought it was pretty stupid although on Christmas Day she insisted on running next to me for most of the trips down, I think she liked 'holding my eye' while she ran.

I could tell she thought it was silly but she was game for a run every time and never failed to keep close tabs on my progress. Or maybe she just wanted to show off her pretty new pink collar that she got from Santa.

Boy was a little less focused on me and a little more interested in winning the race to the bottom after which he'd tackle me and attempt to mash me into the snow.  I think he could probably make himself more useful by pulling us back up the hill ... maybe next year.

My Dad and I had races down the hill and there was a little unsportsmanlike conduct - for one of the races there was a photo finish - this one was my dad by a nose. Cora thought the whole thing was terribly confusing but since she is a puppy she took it all in stride and had a great time.

The top of the hill was a bit of a gong show because the dogs never did seem to figure out that we were preparing to head down hill. They'd cross over and stand on the track waiting for us to do something interesting besides sit in the snow. Raimi was big on giving kisses before the race ...

In all it was a riot and although we were only out for an hour it didn't feel that long. Neither my Dad nor I are young folk so the haul up the hill pretty much determines how long we'll be out. I think a tow rope is in order for next year!

If you ask me that's a pretty nice view to behold as you are screaming down a hill of snow with 3 hundred pounds of dog breathing down your neck. If careening down that hill looks a bit treacherous it's because yes, that's a highway at the end of the driveway and also a stand of trees and beyond that the ocean. I think to get to the ocean is a largely unobtainable goal but both my Dad and I did reach the fence which borders the highway, it's still debatable who got the most distance at the end of the day. Based on ground covered I think the dogs safely beat us all by a long margin even though they weren't sledding.

I have some pretty amazing childhood memories of Christmas with my parents but I think it's just as important to enjoy each other's company as an adult - whether at Christmas or any other time of year. Going 'coasting' with my parents and my dogs for Christmas 2011 ranks pretty high up there as an experience to tuck safely in my memory banks.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Santa Clause

We are back from Christmas spent at my parent's house where the food was great, the gifts were awesome and there were some adorable Puli puppies to squee over. Perhaps next year, if all goes according to plan, I will be hosting the Christmas dinner ... must remember to take the batteries out of the smoke detector Christmas morning.

The weather obliged by sending us just enough snow to make it beautiful but not too much to make travel hazardous - I literally drove through a winter wonderland out to Malagash. Christmas Day dawned bright and early for the dogs whose alarm clocks are set for the same time everyday no matter where we are sleeping. I had them out briefly first thing to get the wiggles out and as usual they love visiting their 'grandparents'.

Cora in particular thought this was a thrilling adventure and enjoyed the thrill of deep snow for only the second time in her life. Isn't that the face of a little girl experiencing the wonder of her first Christmas?

Esme demonstrated a sincere need for her wayward body suit by attempting to pick up every snowflake on the property. Thankfully she didn't succeed.

Leeloo didn't much care that it was Christmas morning except that it might mean more food for her.

And Boy was incredibly patient while I took multiple photos of him in front of this tree heavy with snow. He sat patiently even though his boy parts got a little chilled.  

There was lots of playing, wrestling, running, and leaping like deer across the fields ... but not too much since in the afternoon we'd planned a tobogganing expedition and they needed to save their strength ... photos of that Christmas day activity in the next day or two!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

All About Eve

Today is a special day for Invictus since it's the day my second litter of puppies was born and it's the day, two years later, that Esme was born. I guess there really is something about Christmas. I welcomed 12 beautiful puppies into the world and they have done nothing but light up the lives of the people who own them. Here's to the Christmas litter from 2007; may your holidays, and birthday, be bright.

And for little Esme, who is currently not speaking to me because I have spent the last 3 days grooming, bathing and trimming her, she is certainly not enjoying the 'special attention'. For her birth date anniversary I got a plush sheep for her to carry around and my apologies to the sheep who started out intending to be a toy for a child but got waylaid when I spotted it in storage at work. It really is a very cute sheep. Cora thought so too. Esme is in the photo, she's the black blob Cora's ear is resting on.

Once I started playing with Esme and the sheep Boy thought he'd like it too so for a while there the sheep almost became dismembered before it had a chance to get a look at its new surroundings. Boy has its head, Esme its middle and Cora has hold of its cute little bottom. In the end the sheep survived the melee and is now resting on the dog bed trying not to be noticed.

Leeloo thinks the fuss is not worth the effort and where is Tamzin with the damn binkie service already? She is surrounded by no fewer than four binkies, none of which are covering her as they ought to be. Once the sheep photography session was over she got her wish and service was restored.

Esme was triumphant in the end with her sheep and she can claim a start to her own little herd. I can say one thing for sure, herding this plush sheep will be a damn sight easier than herding Ridgebacks! 

When you are born so close to Christmas it's easy to just combine the two and give only one gift. I don't like to do that; however, through no fault of my own, I do only have the one gift for Esme. She is getting a new body suit which was special ordered and custom made ... in the middle of October. I have yet to see this Wonder Suit although I am assured by the company it was on its way last week. I had rather hoped to have this gift for Esme not only before Christmas, but before the first major snowfall of the season. Since it's Saturday, Christmas Eve and there is 5 inches of snow on the ground, I suppose I must give up on any miracles for this holiday season. Hopefully the sheep will be enough to satisfy the birthday girl although I am eager to get the new suit to keep sand and snow away from the hair of this busy little Puli.

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to the babies of Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Man Up

As you may have been able to tell I've been slightly PO'ed about a bitch I bred and sold in good faith to a family who has now bred her for the 3rd litter in a row on back to back heats before she is even 4 years old. It's caused quite a stir in the Ridgeback community coast to coast and thankfully, no one is looking to me for answers. Good thing too since I have none. I'd never advise three litters in a row that's for sure. I tried to mentor as best I could and gave it up as a lost cause over a year ago - there is only so much I can do.

When I heard about the possible breeding, as the bitch's breeder, I took the time to send a thoughtful and informed email to the person who owned the potential stud. It was a thinly veiled attempt to get the stud owner to reconsider allowing the breeding since the timing was based on flawed logic (that to skip a heat the bitch would be 5 next breeding and that was too old - it's not by the way) and the bitch didn't need to be bred again so soon. As an added point, the male has been used so extensively that you can't throw a dog cookie in Western Canada without one of his get catching it ('get' are the puppies produced by a male, bitches produce 'progeny'). The stud owner's reply to me was vapid and useless and told me my efforts were wasted. Next I heard the poor gal had been bred.  

 Let's be honest, it's not just the person who owns a bitch who is responsible for breeding her. The stud owner is a key component and needs to know as much about their dog as possible. They must also ask all the right questions and be able to evaluate the structure, pedigrees, temperament and health of the bitches who approach them. They must be diligent and particular. Added to which, males should be even more carefully scrutinized and managed than the females since they are able to produce many more puppies in their lifetime than a bitch. A good stud manager not only knows who to breed to, but who *not* to breed to and the most important thing they can say is "No" to a bitch's owner. It's a big responsibility to have a dog with testicles in your house, particularly one who is sought after.

In truth I have no objection to the male that was used on my bitch, the point is she has already proven herself and had earned an easy retirement. It's not fair to breed her again and again when she has gone beyond expectations and produced much better than herself. To say that she is a 'great mom' and 'loves her puppies' is just all kinds of horse-hockey - she doesn't have a choice - she HAS to take care of them. Frankly, if she never had another litter in her life she wouldn't care. The stud owner should have looked at the bigger picture and not been seduced by the thought of more 'grand puppies' but she didn't, it was too easy to say yes and disregard the bitch's welfare for one more stud fee.

I was asked if I'd ever offer Raimi as a stud and the answer is no. I'm no stud manager. Having other people's bitches in your house is a big deal. It upsets the dynamic of the house, it's a hassle, you have to be so careful with them ... to my mind it's just not worth it. Plus, Raimi is just not popular stud material. I adore him but as a show dog Raimi is an aquired taste to say the least. I haven't made up my mind about his future but in the end he will likely wind up being The Boy who can sing with a slightly higher octave.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Days Gone By

As you may have been able to tell the photos from yesterday were taken at the beach. It was just coming on sunset when the light, according to my eye, is the best. Especially if you have golden colored dogs and they are set against a backdrop as serene and peaceful as Caribou Island, Nova Scotia. Or a little black Puli who is finally stopping long enough on walks to pose.

It's not hard to find serenity here. Just drive for 10 minutes and you are exploring deserted beaches, listening to the gentle lap of the high tide and basking in the warm glow of some pretty happy canines. And their behinds. My favorite thing now is to look at Cora's tail and see the little shepherd's crook she inherited from Leeloo ... so cute.

Something was sure interesting to Leeloo in that one spot and long after Cora lost interest Leeloo insisted on staying on to investigate further. Also, it's important for Leeloo to win so to stay after everyone else has left is a minor victory to her ... Leeloo FTW!

Cora spent a lot of time looking for me to make sure I didn't desert her on this little spit of land. She's only been here a couple times before so she was not sure how much exploring was 'safe' to do.

This little piece of land is totally safe for the dogs. I can see them no matter where we are and the entire area is surrounded by water - something the dogs refuse to venture into even when it's 32 degrees Celsius. There are lots of interesting sniffs because several birds and animals make stops here and when it's not blowing a gale it is truly one of the best and safest places to walk them.

Those eyes agree. Even gangly, awkward, bum high and totally out of proportion, Cora is my image of an ideal Ridgeback bitch. I cannot express in words how much I adore this puppy. How could anyone deny those big soft baby browns? 

It's thirsty work looking beautiful and exploring the wilds of Nova Scotia. However, Leeloo and Cora quickly discover that the water here is not for drinking, much to their disappointment. Never mind, shortly thereafter we headed home to snuggle on the couch and dream of beaches gone by.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Shape of Things

If you are going to breed your bitch on back to back heats (but not three in a row because that seems excessive and possibly motivated by greed in my opinion) perhaps your bitch should look something like this:

You know, in excellent shape and well recovered from the last litter. It's almost as if she never had a litter 6 months ago except for the reminder from the annoying whining Baby Booble on my couch next to me.

Or maybe this one is a better example.

Or perhaps this one.  

Leeloo is not a puppy factory. She trusts me to make the right decisions about her life. That's right ... her LIFE. Because having babies is hard damn work and bitches can actually end up with complications and some do die in the process, particularly ones who may have have been overweight their whole lives. I am Leeloo's only advocate and I have to know when to say 'enough'. Sadly, in our material world, people make excuses for their actions at the expense of the only creatures on the planet who trust us without question. May I never be that person and more importantly, may I never put a puppy in that position again.